Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Iman Shumpert says he’s ready to try and help the Knicks win an NBA championship.
“I will make sure that I fight for New York to win the title,” Shumpert, the Knicks’ pick at No. 17 in Thursday’s NBA Draft, told ESPN1050 radio Friday.
In order for the Knicks to even hope of challenging Eastern Conference powers Miami, Chicago, Boston and Orlando, they must amp up their defense several levels.
And the 6-foot-4 Georgia Tech guard says he’s ready to defend three positions.
“I wouldn’t list [defense] as my greatest asset, just something I truly take pride in,” he said. “I think I can guard up to three positions, point guard, shooting guard, small forward.”
An Oak Park, Ill., native, Shumpert averaged 17.3 points and 5.9 rebounds during his junior season with the Yellow Jackets.
But he was drafted over Chris Singleton of Florida State and Kenneth Faried of Morehead State, among others, more for his defense than his offense.
The Knicks had no answer for Celtics’ point guard Rajon Rondo in the playoffs, and need Shumpert to help defend players like Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose.
“His athleticism gives us a chance to be able to put him on different guys,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said Friday. “And the league is becoming very athletic out front and up and down, and you got to deal with Derrick Rose, you got to deal with Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook and these guys that are flying up and down, Rondo, and he gives you that athletic ability to be able to guard people.
“No matter how somebody wants to do it, you can’t just physically do it, and he can.”
Carmelo Anthony appeared to be unhappy with the draft pick when it was first made. Anthony had supported his boy Josh Selby, a fellow Baltimore native who played at Kansas.
“Teams are sleeping on my son Josh Selby,” Anthony tweeted early in the draft.
Once the Knicks chose Shumpert, Anthony added via Twitter, “Goodnight. I’m out.”
After he took some heat on Twitter for appearing to not back the pick, he chimed in later with, “My man Iman. look forward to working wit u. Hope I can be a great teacher to u.”
For his part, Shumpert said he’s looking forward to playing with Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, with whom he shares an agent, Happy Walters.
“It’s going to be big for me,” Shumpert said. “It finally puts me into a position where I can just focus on my specialties, just focus on what I do and not have to go outside my game much because you got two guys in Carmelo and Amar’e that can score the ball. And a guy like Chauncey [Billups], being able to learn from a veteran/legend. It’s a wonderful thing.”
The Knicks also acquired the draft rights to Kentucky forward Josh Harrellson from New Orlean. Harrellson, a fan of jean shorts, or Jorts, was selected in the second round (45th overall) by the Hornets.
The 6-10, 275-pound Harrellson averaged 7.6 points and 4.7 rebounds in 38 games during his senior season. He led the Southeastern Conference in field goal percentage (.611) and ranked second in rebounding (8.7).
“[He’s] a need that we need,” D’Antoni said. “He’s a big body, obviously. He came in and had a very nice workout. He showed that he’ll bang people around. He’s tough, he’s big. He had a nice touch shooting-wise. He can put the ball on the floor a little bit.
“We’ll see if he can adapt to the NBA game, but we think he has a chance, a good chance, and we’re looking forward to seeing him.”
With a lockout looming July 1, it remains unclear how much time Shumpert and Harrellson will have to work and train with their new teammates, but D’Antoni said he’s optimistic the team will improve from the one that was swept by the Celtics while Stoudemire (back) and Billups (knee) were injured.
“We’re going to be better than last year because we’ll have time to come together so we’re gonna be better,” the coach said. “And guys are gonna get better. Landry [Fields]’s gonna be better. Toney [Douglas]’s gonna be better. And hopefully Iman and Josh will help out.
“Then we’ll have some holes, we’ll have to re-sign people or make some whatever, so there is a process that goes on. We’re going to be a better team and we’ll just see how good we can get.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.